Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Up the Amazon

The September issue of PC Pro (a British computer magazine) arrived today. Featured on the front cover was an article exposing the rip-off prices charged by music download sites. Madonna's Celebration (which I presume is a popular music album) would set you back £11.18 at MSN Music or £11.99 at Spotify but would cost you only £2.98 from Amazon.

Included with the magazine was a DVD which contained a free copy of Paragon System Backup 2010. As I didn't have any backup software for 64-bit Windows I thought this was fortuitous, so I decided to install it. But after handing over my email address in exchange for a free registration code it failed to install. The developers had used the ridiculously overpriced, overcomplicated and error-prone InstallShield (programmers will know what I mean) to create the setup wizard and only a few seconds into the install it threw up an error message about being unable to initialize the Javascript runtime and died.

I tried the obvious things like checking that Java was installed, running the installer in administrator mode, and even Googling the error message and trying the suggested remedy of registering the Javascript DLL, all to no avail. So I decided that I was not going to rely on backup software from a company that could not even produce an installer that would run on a brand-new computer, and consigned Paragon to the Recycle Bin (both literally and virtually.)

I spent a couple more hours downloading, being unimpressed by and then uninstalling a number of other free backup programs. I even discovered that there was a backup program included with Windows, but for some reason the version that comes with Windows 7 Home Premium has been hobbled by only being able to back up to writeable DVDs or removeable hard drives, not my network attached backup server. After being advised that the backup would take 6 or 7 DVDs I decided against it.

In the end I decided to stump up for a copy of Acronis, which most people seem to regard as hands-down the best backup software you can get. It can create disk images from which you can restore even if Windows won't run and it has a continuous backup option that backs up your files while you work so you can revert back if you mess up a file. It even has a "Try and Decide" sandbox that lets you safely try out software you aren't sure about to see if it will do anything nasty to your hard drive.

The Acronis website informed me that this paragon (small p) of backup software would cost £39.95. After checking some reviews, in my usual lazy fashion I typed "acronis trueimage" into the Google search box to find my way back to the website, and Google helpfully included three "shopping results" in its list of related sites. Included there was an offer of Acronis TrueImage Home 2010 from Amazon for £17.99.

Eh? I can buy online and pay £40 for an electronically delivered product the manufacturing and delivery costs of which are near zero, or I can have a physical product that has been mastered onto CD and put into a printed box, possibly with a manual, which has then been driven to a warehouse and stored waiting for me to buy, after which it will be put into a cardboard mailer and sent through the post to be delivered to my door, for less than half the price (with SuperSaver free delivery.) Sorry, I don't see the logic in that, but thanks very much Google and Amazon.
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